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A UNIQUELY CREATIVE SHORT STORY WRITER

sciousness and sensation, introspection, of the characters’ inner lives and impulses.

I was then taking my first steps in the art of writing, and the more I read Tamer, the more convinced I became of his importance as a short story writer who had marked out his own unique trajectory. When, in the early 1960s, I read his short story “The Seventh Day Came” in a Syrian magazine of the time, its symbolism, enveloped in a kind of transparent ambiguity, its captivatingly poetic language, astounded me. Others of his long tales, like “The Bedouin”, “Departure for the Sea”, bowled me over too.

After the editor of The New Horizon, a Jerusalem-based magazine, asked a colleague and myself to speak to Tamer with a view to publishing some of his short stories in the magazine, we visited him in his office, it was in the summer of 1963. How eager we were to meet him! He was wonderfully witty, so adept at the sarcastic quip. He welcomed us and together we shared ideas on literature. I soon sensed he was a man profoundly engaged in life, something that came out clearly in his stories, which were full of movement and vitality, full of candour about life in the big city, the mighty metropolis that crushed the individual, arrogantly indifferent to their feelings. We would meet up with him, in Al-Kamal Café, sitting amid his peers in the literary elite. That summer we got to know not only him, but also Yasin Rifa’iyah and Ghada al-Samman – both of them short story writers of the time – and the critic Muhyi al-Din Sobhi, who used to write his articles in Al-Kamal Café.

I lived in exile from 1975, after the Israeli occupying forces deported me, until I returned in 1993. I published a number of children’s stories in various magazines including Osama, which was distributed from Damascus and edited by Tamer back then. I used to send him my short stories and his publishing them encouraged me to keep on writing children’s tales. Tamer won renown back then for the many collections of children’s stories he wrote. Reading “The House”, a story of his published by Dar al-Fata al-Arabi in Beirut, is still fresh in my mind to this day. It recounts how all the creatures of the world have a home to call their own except for the Palestinians, whose home is occupied by the enemy and who have no choice but to fight to get it back.

Tamer did not just excel in short story writing, for several newspapers published his satirical articles with their striking literary

BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015 89

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